Pesticide use by farmers raises food safety concerns


A Farmer from Otukpo Local Government Area in Benue State, Eko Aboje, had a few days ago applied pesticides on his large cultivated farm about a month ago.

Aboje does not know the exact amount recommended for his farm which he describes as large as a football field, but uses his discretion to apply as much as he thinks would be enough for the farm.

Worse still, he sprays the farm all by himself without any form of protective clothing as required by the experts because all the other farmers around his environment are doing the same thing.

He said his post-harvest products are generally stored with chemicals considered appropriate for the content, not primarily as recommended by experts, but as practiced by those unfamiliar with the proper use of those chemicals.

“I spray (close) it by myself. I don’t wear protective clothing. I cultivated the farm and planted crops in April and May. And I will spray it two more times before harvest.

“I don’t follow expert advice because I don’t have access to any of them. I practice what other farmers in my environment do,” Aboje said.

Like Aboje, most farmers feed their fields with pesticides deemed unsuitable by experts and additionally garnish their harvested produce with chemicals that negatively impact the health of people who consume these foodstuffs after purchasing them from the markets. .

A recent study by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) identified the majority of farmers like Aboje and agro-processors in the country as unaware of the safe use of pesticides, thus endangering the health and lives of million Nigerians.

To this end, the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of NEPC, Dr. Ezra Yakusak, has expressed his concern that the lives of many Nigerians are at risk as a result of the misuse of pesticides by the majority of farmers and food processors. agricultural products of the country.

Yakusak made the revelation during a two-day pesticide management program for the training of Spray Service Providers (SSPs) at Yandev College of Agriculture in Gboko Local Government Area in Gboko State. Benue.

He said the development has largely contributed to the rejection/banning of agricultural products exported from the country.

“Recent studies indicate that over 70% of smallholder farmers and commercial farms in Nigeria use pesticides as control measures to prevent insect and pest attacks on their crops.

“A greater percentage of this is applied at the post-harvest level during storage in warehouses prior to export. More so, farmers and processors have no formal training or guidance on the safe use and proper application of pesticides,” he said.

Represented by Trade Advisor/Head, NEPC, Makurdi Export Office, Ben Anani, the Executive Director added: “Inadequate application technique has market implications in addition to direct soil contamination and risk for the ecosystem; pesticide residues above the recommended allowable levels not only endanger human health and cause food safety concerns, but also seriously affect the export market of agricultural products.

He noted that the program implemented by NEPC in collaboration with the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) aims to build the capacity of smallholder farmers on the safe use and proper application of pesticides, pointing out that the program is a component of the NEPC SSP project. in risk management measures that seek to mitigate the effects of Nigerian agricultural export rejections at border checkpoints due to contaminants.

He added, “The continued banning and rejection of Nigerian agricultural products from the European Union (EU) and other export markets is of grave concern to the Nigerian Export Promotion Council NEPC.

“Our agricultural products destined for export markets are facing challenges of rejections at border checkpoints due to the presence of contaminants such as pesticide residues, mainly dichlorvos and other impurities exceeding the maximum residual limit allowed .”

The NEPC boss further explained that in Nigeria, as in many developing countries, the technical considerations for safe and correct application of pesticides and herbicides are often overlooked, unknown or unregulated.

He argued that the World Trade Organization (WTO) recommends that the use of pesticides in agricultural production to produce food, both for domestic consumption and for export, should follow good practice guidelines. agriculture during primary production.

Yakusak also stated that “a key part of the risk management measures in the pesticide control system is to train certified contract spray service providers to carry out pesticide applications on farms and agricultural products intended for Competent authorities involved in food safety and international trade in the agri-food sector must therefore develop a practical and achievable solution to sensitize and educate value chain actors on good agricultural practices and food safety measures before export.

The key informants at the workshop all stressed the need to reduce the growing concerns about the misuse of pesticides in the country.

Speakers all highlighted the implications of the misuse of pesticides, including contamination of water, air, soil and habitat, as well as the direct exposure of wildlife to toxic materials that can harm natural predators, pollinators, beneficial soil organisms, fish, birds, among others. .

“Excess residue on food due to excessive use of food products such as fruits and vegetables. Excessive use resulting in seed discoloration reduces seed value. Pest resistance that occurs when the same materials or products with the same chemical groups are used repeatedly.

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“Economic losses due to crop damage or poor pest control. Pesticide poisoning: resulting from acute symptoms like headache, nausea, dizziness, convulsions, vomiting, fever and difficulty breathing,” said presenter Francis Bum.

One of the resource persons who is the National President of the National Association of Producers, Processors and Distributors of Yams, Professor Simon Irtwange, in his presentation titled “Calibration of Pesticides and Use of Personal Protective Equipment”, called outright ban on the use of pesticides because of the dangers they pose to the health and lives of Nigerians.

In addition, Head of Department of Crop and Environmental Protection at Joseph Sarwuan Tarka Makurdi University, Prof. Rosemary Ahom noted that the misapplication of chemicals in farms has led to health problems. chronicles, including his adversity on women’s reproductive health.

For his part, Dr Solomon Sunday of the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), who spoke on certification requirements and processing of agricultural produce for export, argued that the controlled use of pesticides was very important to protect the health of Nigerians.


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